Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.
You’ve heard it said, “Timing is everything.” However, the Christian version of that statement should be, “Timing is everything when it’s — God’s timing.”
Think for a moment about the people who have crossed the path of your life and have altered your direction.
To help jog your memory, I’m going to recall a series of events that shaped my life. Note how I had nothing to do with the encounters. These weren’t people I had previously known. They appeared in my life when I needed them; right place at the right time.
I mentioned Steve Stickler in a previous devotional. He was the new Strasburg High School band director who suggested I had musical talent. His encouragement inspired a dream within me to pursue a career in music. Right place — right time.
In the eleventh grade, Mr. Stickler moved on and was replaced by Mr. Duffy, who formerly played trumpet in the Navy Band. Thanks to his influence, my dream was given a direction. Later that year I auditioned for the Navy Band and was accepted. Once again, right place — right time.
In the early morning hours on New Year’s Day 1969, I returned from a gig to the Navy Band barracks in Honolulu. Didn’t have transportation, so I had to call a cab. The cabby’s radio was cranked up and a commercial played for Career Academy. I’ll never forget the first words of the ad. “You too can be a radio announcer.” Next morning, I called their number and enrolled in the Career Academy home study course. That simple event changed my dream and set me on course for a forty-year radio career. I was in the right place at the right time.
On a beautiful day in the fall of 1970, I had just returned home after my discharge from the Navy. I stopped by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church where I had taken a part-time job as the choir director. When I opened the door, a girl was standing on the stairs smiling brighter than the September sunshine. Once again, the Lord had put me in the right place at the right time. A few months ago we celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary.
In 1973, I was sitting in my office in the City Federal Building in Birmingham, Alabama. WSGN had taken a hit in the ratings and as Program Director, I feared for my job. Then the phone rang. The caller asked to speak to my predecessor. When I told him the person he wanted no longer worked for us, he told me he was looking for a PD for a radio station in Jackson, Mississippi. Then he asked, “How about you? Would you be interested in moving to Jackson?” Right place — right time.
One more. About a year later, I was visited by a local comic and TV newsman who was promoting his new comedy record. That encounter led to the morning radio team of Burt and Kurt. We remained as radio partners for 33 years. Once again, God put me in the right place at the right time.
Back to our focus text. Nehemiah was cupbearer to the Persian King, Artaxerxes I. The Lord placed Nehemiah in a position of trust before one of the most powerful men in the world. The burden of Nehemiah’s heart was for his people to return to their homeland and rebuild it. Through that divinely initiated encounter, Nehemiah’s request was granted. (Nehemiah 2:3-8) God put him in the right place at the right time.
Nehemiah prayed for success and favor for him and his people. He had a dream, and the Lord put him in the right place at the right time for it to become a reality.
All along the path of your life, the Lord marks your way. People and events point to the direction you should follow. Sometimes you come to a crossroads that requires a change in direction. That’s why your walk must be bathed in prayer and godly conduct.
As you navigate the complexities of this life on earth, may the Lord grant you success and favor, direct your path, and put you in the right place at the right time.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Keep Your Eyes On the Prize
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 4 (October – December) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.
My wife, Janet the artist, told me that some renowned oil painters use a little something more than just their signatures to label their paintings. For example, a tea cup or a vase incorporated into every work of art. Sometimes the objects are masked or hidden and near impossible to find. Thomas Kincade included the letter N in most of his paintings which was a tribute to his wife, Nanette. Kind of like Where’s Waldo for adults.
That gave me an idea. Why not use that technique in my writing? My old radio partner of 40+ years, Kurt Kilpatrick, wanted to know why I was using my real name for my pen name. Richard Weirich? Really? Why not the name by which I was more commonly known from the radio wars? Burt or Bob Burton? Too late. Already on my 4th novel.
Back in the day, for those old enough to remember Burt and Kurt, we had a cast of characters featuring Kurt’s amazing impressions. That’s when you could build an audience with G-rated and occasionally PG-rated material. I digress. Anyway, now in my novels there are vignettes featuring those old legendary characters. Red Wood makes an appearance in Farewell PFC POLK: The End of a Nightmare. A new book, Angels Diner: Alexandra’s Song, due for release in May 2016, will feature a cameo performance by the loveable Uncle Mack. (get a preview in Part 2 of this post)
Drill Sgt Red Wood
In Farewell PFC POLK, Red Wood appears as a Marine Corps Drill Sergeant. Following is an excerpt from that scene:
At the conclusion of the ceremony, an officer entered the room and welcomed them to the Marine Corps and then he introduced yet another sergeant who was as charming as the first.
“My name is Sergeant Red Wood. I’m going to be your babysitter until we get to Parris Island. Now, some of you may have the mistaken idea that you are already a Marine. By tomorrow, you’ll have the uniform, but first you girls have to go through a little thing we call ‘boot.’ So, I would like to be the first to welcome you to hell. Not all of you will make it through hell but if you do, then you will officially be a member of the greatest fighting outfit the world has ever known. First stop, the chow hall. You will not talk or make eye contact with any of the real Marines in the room. You will not get out of your seat until I say so and then you will all go to the head together. The head is what your mommy called a bathroom. From now you will call it the head. If you are ever heard calling it a bathroom, restroom, privy, outhouse, or anything other than ‘the head’ you will be required to get on all fours with a tooth brush and clean her until she sparkles. Then you will place your behinds in a seat of my choosing on a bus that will take you to the Marine Riviera. For that lovely little 9-hour ride, you will say nothing, speak nothing, and sit in an upright position looking only at the deck. We will go over these instructions again because I know you are too stupid to remember them. Have I made myself clear?”
“Yes, sir,” yelled the men.
“Have I made myself clear?”
The sergeant led his charges to the chow hall and sat with his friends who pointed and laughed at the new recruits. After the meal, he directed the men to the bus that would take them to Parris Island and just as they prepared to depart he repeated his earlier directives and closed with, “I know what you’re thinkin’. You think I’m an SOB. Wait ‘til you meet your drill sergeant. Then you’re gonna believe I’m the friendliest fella you ever met.” That said, the sergeant slumped into his seat and laughed and laughed. After a moment of silence, he chuckled again.
Farewell PFC POLK deals with a sad topic, the untimely and unnecessary death of a 19-year-old Marine and how his family and friends coped with the tragedy. Plenty of tears in the story, for sure. But there are also a lot of laughs and an uplifting message of hope. Hope you get a chance to read it. (Get it here.)
Burt and Kurt
A few days ago, my old friend, Kurt Kilpatrick, called. Before the conversation concluded he said, “We had a good run together, didn’t we?” My response was to the affirmative. The run he referred to lasted over 40 years, a radio team partnership and friendship that began in 1974.
I still remember our first meeting. He was promoting a record featuring his comedic impressions. I was the program director and morning DJ at WJDX in Jackson, MS.
A few minutes into our discussion he pulled out a massive stogie and lit it up which was a cue for me to get him out of my office as quickly as possible. I took his vinyl recording out of the record sleeve and placed it on the turntable. (If you are under 40, this may sound like a foreign language.) With the ears of a seasoned skeptic who had heard hundreds of wanna-be artists I listened, at first half-heartedly, and ultimately, captivated by his talent.
Admittedly, I reasoned that his vocal impressions could not be him and even questioned him on the matter. Chapter One ends with a job offer as a partner on my morning radio show.
Thankfully, he accepted and the Burt and Kurt Show was born. In less than a year we had the number one radio program in Jackson and soon after job offers started coming in from around the country. We stayed the course in Jackson for several years and then one day we received a call from a former boss of mine, George Williams, the National Program Director for Southern Broadcasting.
We signed a contract for a morning show at WLCY in Tampa, FL where we would become the highest paid morning talent in that city’s history. Our loyal fans in Jackson were devastated, so much so that one of them offered me a sizeable plot of land to stay. The Mississippi Legislature declared our final day as, Burt and Kurt Day in the state.
Our mission in Tampa was to save an AM radio station that was failing, primarily due to the rising popularity of FM radio. Then, a year later, Southern Broadcasting determined that a News/Talk format was a better road to success, so they shipped us off to KULF in Houston, TX, again with the purpose of saving another dying AM radio station. By the late 70s and early 80s, FM was the radio band of choice.
Again, Southern switched to a news format and we were dismissed. (Nicer word than “fired.” Still hurt like heck.)
Then we got a call from Ray Quinn in Birmingham, AL. He was the manager of a new venture, and thankfully, it was FM. The Program Director was an old friend, Bill Thomas. We hammered out a deal and packed our bags for the premier of Magic 96, WMJJ-FM.
Even in Birmingham we had a rocky start. Soon after sign on, somebody decided it would be a cute idea to cut the support wires to our tower, which resulted in a crash, and a signal that barely covered a city block in Homewood.
Eventually, the Magic 96 project became a success and we were again atop the ratings which led to a healthy new contract and all was well in Burt and Kurt land until, I decided that I had been called into the ministry. And so, in 1988, after 14 years together, we broke up.
There were attempts over the years that followed to get us back together which eventually came to fruition when we reunited at Oldies 106.9 and once again we were riding high until September 2000 when we were again given our walking papers. After that painful dismissal, Crawford Broadcasting brought us on board for a talk show on 101.1 but news-talk just wasn’t our thing and the glory years were gone. In October 2007, we signed off for the last time.
Yes, it was a “good run.” From 1974 to 2007, with a brief 4 year interlude, we had the good fortune to work together and more importantly, build a friendship that is not subject to ratings, format changes, or questionable corporate decisions.
Somewhere along the way somebody decided that the best description of our style was “good clean fun in the morning.” I’ll take that. Good way to be remembered.
And so, when Kurt and I get together, which is very seldom, he still makes me laugh. We catch up on what’s happening with our families and what we are working on. Very little is said about “the good old days.”
Every now and then somebody will ask me, “Whatever happened to Burt and Kurt?” Now you know. We are best friends. It doesn’t get any better than that.